Audrey – Scott Pedersen

“I arrive in the village around noon. You must arrive earlier.”

“Yes, around eight. I’m finished by eleven.”

Audrey nodded. And nodded again. She must think me a dolt, she thought.

“But tomorrow I’ll stay later,” offered the girl. “Until at least one o’clock.” The girl looked at Audrey intently, as if expecting a reaction, but Audrey was too unnerved to be sure of what the girl had said.

“My mother’s sister will be selling her flowers next to me on the Commons,” the girl continued excitedly. “She’ll gladly watch my cart if I care to walk about. I might take lunch to the courthouse lawn and eat under the shade trees there.”

More words—Audrey heard them, at least some of them, but her mind was wholly taken with the girl’s smile. She felt a need to respond, but the best she could do was, “I should be going. My father’s clients may be waiting.”

The next day Hiram sat with Audrey at the breakfast table. “I’ve fallen behind,” said Hiram. His stringy gray hair added to his weary look. “There is nothing to deliver—and nothing I need fetched.” His face brightened. “You’ll have a fine day off. I hear the fish are biting at Colton’s Pond.”

“I might do some fishing later,” said Audrey. “I went to the mercantile to ask about your new walking cane, and Mr. Prinzing loaned me a novel, to apologize for the late delivery. He said it’s very good.”

“He should know. A scholar, he is. Attended the finest German schools.”

So, Audrey spent the rest of the morning reading of gallant explorers and far-flung adventures and went fishing in the afternoon. At bedtime she lulled herself to sleep by imagining talking to the girl with an intimacy that could only grow and then spent the night steeped in blissful dreams.

On her walk the following day, Audrey again sat on the oak stump. As the girl approached from the north, her expression was grim. Audrey hoped she had not been accosted at the market.

When the girl was close, Audrey stood and waved. “Hello!”

The girl continued walking until she was directly across the canal. “I don’t care beans if you ever come to the village again!” She reached into her cart, yanked out a large carrot and flung it at Audrey. It grazed the top of her head as she ducked. The girl’s next carrot sailed toward Audrey’s face, but she raised the portfolio to deflect it. The girl finished by throwing the rest of the bunch in Audrey’s direction. The carrots fell into the canal as the girl continued on her way.

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